The Green Saint of Kolkata, Part 1

By Paul Sinclair (One World One People) 25/07/03

G'Day all you champions, how are we all?

With out delay let’s plunge our hand into the snake charmers basket that is irrepressible India, to see what’s real and what’s rubber as we once again grapple with last years adventure.

First, I went to visit my old mate the Green Saint of Kolkata: Korak Day. I call him the Green Saint of Kolkata (Calcutta) because he wears green shirts most of the time and has pledged his life to doing
Korak playing the part of a destitute and
dying man in 'My Karma'
Aamar Nijer

beautiful things for the poor. I first met him in Mother Teresa's Home for the Destitute and Dying (Kalighat) where he was helping to run the men’s section. At the same time he was also studying filmmaking in the evenings.

Then out of the blue one day I got an email from him telling me that he was leaving Kalighat to make a film. I thought this was a bit strange since he loved his work there. (He had been volunteering there fulltime for six years, working six days a week, without any holidays or sick days. (This chapter of his life he called his "schooling".) Then wham bam the next thing I hear is this young, excitement machine had only gone and turned it on Hollywood style: he had recruited some of the most famous actors and actresses, technicians etc in India and in no time shot and directed his first film. In it he also plays the part of a dying destitute left for dead in the gutter. To look the part, that is emaciated like someone about to die of starvation, he only ate one meal a day for nearly six months! But don't worry all you mothers out there, after the film was made and many protests were received, he was soon back to eating properly and is now as fit as trout!

Then a little while after the filming was completed, I got an email from him raising the high jump bar and explaining why he had made his film.

At Kalighat, although it was a home for the destitute and dying and a patient would have to be near dead or in a very bad way to gain entry to it, sixty percent of the patients would recover. So when they were physically well, they would be given a little money and some new clothes and then made to go back out onto the street again. This was necessary due to the high demand for the beds. The big problem with this was that many of the patients were mentally disadvantaged and unable to look after themselves on the tough streets of Kolkata. So it was a matter of weeks before you would see these patients bought back to Kalighat, again near dead. So in response to this need he decided to open a very special home called 'Aamar Nijer' or 'My Own'. It was started as a home for unloved people and this was why he had made the film, to help pay for the home and to share some of the lessons he had learnt from all those years working with the people called ‘the poorest of the poor’. Korak’s first film is called 'My Karma' and you can read more about it and see some still shots at www.korakday.com/MyKarma.htm.

The first member of Aamar Nijer was Nitai. Nitai was a patient at Kalighat who was mentally disadvantaged. As soon as he could, Korak adopted him as his son and the family of Aamar Nijer was begun. You can read more about Nitai and other family members stories at http://www.korakday.com/Eternal.htm and http://www.korakday.com/Introduction.htm

To give you an idea of some of the beautiful goings on at Aamar Nijer here is Korak's story of when he decided to give Nitai a birthday for the first time in his life.

"The family who lives upstairs had a birthday for their youngest child and then later I showed Nitai some stills from 'My Karma' where there are some birthday shots. He started talking about birthdays a lot. He always said he never had a birthday in his life and he would talk about cutting cakes and putting a needle in the balloon and then something will fall on his head. When I would ask for his day of birth, he had no idea! Since the day I told him that he became a part of my family (during last year February) so we will calibrate his birthday for the 28th of February. Try to imagine: he is the happiest person now! He is telling everyone about his birthday and is inviting everyone he comes in contact with. He has told my parents (who have accepted him like another son) of all the things he needs as gifts from them. As he is unstable in his brain, so I do not feel this strange, but it is 'strange' for other people to see this big man of a big age climbing up the iron-work of the balcony and yelling at the passing aircraft. He believes that all those friends who are family members now, who came from different parts of the world and stayed at Aamar Nijer - My Own Home here in Kolkata, pass every night in airplanes and he talks with them every night and invites them also every night. "

Like Korak says once Nitai was regarded by everyone to be nothing more than a piece of trash in the street and now he is a much loved family member. Magnificent! So there you have it champions, that's what can happens when people care. Stay tuned to the next episode when we take a peak at what's growing from some of the seeds planted by the Green Saint in the nursery that is the poorest slums of Kolkata. Take care,

Bye now!

Other articles in the series:

The Green Saint of Kolkata, Part 2, The Inspirational School of Hope, 29 August 2003



If you are interested in volunteering with Aamar Nijer they can be contacted through:

www.korakday.com




Nitai cuts the cake for his first birthday party.
Aamar Nijer

One World One People, 29 July 2003
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